Tuesday, September 1, 2015


LIFE’S TACK ROOM                                                                                     September 2015

By Tom Gumbrecht 

The dictionary defines “tack room” as “a place where bridles and saddles are kept.” In the case of our barn, it is that: a 12’ X 12’ room with a 7’6” ceiling, a fluorescent light and a floor covered by stall mats. It has racks for saddles and hooks for bridles and shelves for saddle pads, bandages and wraps. Our tack room doubles as a feed room so there are feed bins and drawers for supplements and cabinets for medications and dressings. Simple, functional storage. But it is more than that.

It is home base for a life that became centered around horses fifteen years ago. It is the 
"Preparing to hang the first saddle"

classroom where many of life's important lessons have been learned, the altar where we have 

prayed for positive outcomes of the challenges of our charges. It has been the command center during a crisis, refuge during a blizzard, shelter during a hurricane. We have celebrated victories and mourned losses here. We have dreamed lofty dreams and been made to face harsh realities here. It has been ground zero for the myriad of emotions that have accompanied a life with horses, and been the place that we have stored the memories of all the life lessons they have taught us.

Top: Early feline inhabitants  Center: Two
cats sharing four kittens  Bottom: Guarding
the tack room.
When the barn was first completed, we didn't yet have a horse of our own to occupy it, so the 
first occupants were a pair of feral kittens that Samantha rescued from the grounds of her 
elementary school. She borrowed a large crate and put it in the corner of the tack room and 
nursed and cared for the kittens which were without a mother. Within a few days the kittens 
were joined by a one-eyed barn owl that set up housekeeping near the peak of the rafters. 

Within the month our first equine family member, Buddy, arrived. He was adopted and came 
with an old, dusty western saddle which sat in stark contrast to the shiny new saddle rack that 
it rested on. In another month Buddy was joined by a mare, Magic, who had retired from the 
hack line at a trail riding barn in Pennsylvania. Now we had two bridles gracing the dozen or 
more hooks on the wall. Little by little we filled the shelves and hooks with tack and equipment 
garnered from friends, swap meets and mail-order catalogs. We became regulars at local tack 
shops and the room filled up quickly. 

When Buddy got sick we learned to mix his medications on the counter here, and devised 
A low-tech barn "message board"

clever ways to sneak them into him. We made a mess trying to mix poultices and did it again 
until it became second nature. We threw T-shirts covered with paste wormer into the trash can 
here until we figured out how to administer them more cleanly. We assisted feral cats with breached kitten births and witnessed another cat taking over for an overwhelmed mother who abandoned her litter and then returned unchallenged to accept her responsibility. We were shocked by a possum and several raccoon squatters and learned how to politely evict them. We were enchanted by white tailed deer peering in the window and startled by walking into giant spider webs.

On a small bench here, we have sat and dreamed of how far our horse might take us in the 
show ring, and have at other times wondered how we were going to pay the next hay bill. We 
have daydreamed about a horse taking us to the next level and prayed that our senior please 
stay healthy for another winter. 

Fabulous friendships were begun within these four walls and a few that needed to end also had 
that happen here. It was here that I was faced with making that dreaded decision that all 
animal stewards are ultimately called to make, and here that I had to tell a young Sam that her 
mare’s young spirit needed to be freed of her sick and aged body. On these walls hung the first 
tri-color ribbons from one horse and x-rays showing the need for many months of rehabilitation 
on another. 

Our tack room is rustic, yet with some
unexpected comforts.
Upon these rubber mats have fallen tears of grief and tears of joy. Here we have experienced 
the best and the worst of life and learned to be grateful for both. Because within these four 
walls, we have not just observed life… we have learned how to live it. In this room is stored 
saddles, bridles, boots and the memories of a life spent in the company of horses. Our tack room is not air conditioned, it is dusty and has cobwebs and no curtains on the windows. It has no furniture to speak of, no TV or WiFi. But it is the most comfortable room we have.

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